Brainstorming and Innovation in the Palm of Your Hands

Published: Wednesday, March 11th, 2020

Intro: You Know What They Say About Idle Hands

Throughout history, idle hands have been frowned upon by the masses.

For one, unoccupied hands are associated with dilly-dallying and laziness. Of course, old wives’ tales would suggest that these factors are what lead us to harmful activities. The term bandied about is “the devil’s plaything.”

Still, we’re not looking to ruffle any religious feathers—only aiming to add context.

The phraseology stems from the idea that if you aren’t being productive, your focus is going to veer towards activities that aren’t particularly great for you. From there, your personal development will suffer, and you’ll find yourself well behind the eight-ball.

Though, what we see more and more as jobs become less physical, is that while our minds are engaged—our hands are still idle.

What’s the result in this shift of what’s defined as “work?”

If we’re to believe some experts that prescribe to specific scientific methodologies, it means we aren’t activating all of our mindpower.

We take in so much of the world with our hands through the sense of feeling. Therefore, we think it is sound logic to believe that activating these valuable body parts would connect with and trigger a reaction in our brains.

The Idle Nature of Today’s Professional Climate

When people initially pointed out the pitfalls of idle hands, we assume it was during a time when labour was physical.

Most people during those days – at least those not of noble descent – were sweating and toiling to put food on the table and keep rooves over their heads.

They were ploughing fields, hunting, and gathering, amongst other arduous activities that are no longer necessities to people.

We live in a day and age where – to make a living – most people don’t have to use their hands. They’re sitting at desks, working away on their computers. Or they’re speaking in front of audiences.

Part of the problem is these jobs of today still necessitate an incredible amount of mindpower. Employees must be quick on their feet and ready to provide practical and lucrative solutions for challenging scenarios.

Unfortunately, when your job requires a lot of thought, it can result in a lot of sitting around and pondering over ideas.

Sure, the process of going back and forth with others who have varying perspective can be incredibly engaging. But the team atmosphere can’t always be relied upon to spring our brains into action. There are times when employees are by themselves and must do work on their own. Furthermore, even in team discussions, the ideas-well can run dry. Plus, team dynamics don’t always lend themselves to the free exchange of thoughts.

Springing Our Hands into Action

It’s interesting to think that by engaging our hands in something, we can enhance our thinking capabilities with other work.

But using our hands when applying brainpower to problem-solving and innovating bolsters these processes drastically.

Does that mean when you’re brainstorming slogans for Coca Cola’s next big ad campaign you need to get your hands on a jackhammer? Or, when you’re conjuring up a cure for a rare disease, you must plough through 100 acres of cornfields?

While we’re sure both of those options wouldn’t be bad ideas, you don’t have to be so extreme.

Using your hands doesn’t necessarily mean breaking your back. Instead, when it comes to brainstorming and problem solving, “using your hands” could be something as simple as playing with LEGOs.

If you’re saddled with a task or project at work that necessitates significant brainpower, building a spaceship, robot, or castle, etc. out of LEGO can be of a tremendous benefit. More specifically, this method helps our brains physically manifest thoughts in both actuality and metaphor.

Now, we don’t expect you to just take our word for it. There’s science backing this approach.

Let’s explore the scientific theory about how busy hands trigger brain activity a bit further:

Do Our Hands Have Brains?

Contemporary science and biology have been making new, ground-breaking discoveries in the realm of creative intelligence:

As opposed to thinking happening independently from the rest of our bodies, thoughts work in unison and harmony with the rest of our body. The term for this theory is embodied cognition.

To further elaborate, Psychology Professor Susan Goldin-Meadow explained that, as humans, we change our minds through the movement of our hands. In other words, our hands have a significant impact on our thought patterns.

Interestingly, this idea has always been something that the worlds’ most influential artists have believed. Now, scientists finally seem to see the world through the lens of these creative geniuses.

And really, it’s not that big of a leap. After all, if our gut has its own brain, surely, so too can our hands.

The Cost of Detaching Ourselves from Our Hands

Most great thinkers of today aren’t much associated with physicality.

For instance, Noam Chomsky isn’t known for his rugby acumen.

It’s a sad truth that modern philosophers are one-dimensional, overly analytical, and detached from the world around them.

What does that mean, though?

It’s difficult to nail down the precise problem, but we’re happy to hypothesize on the matter.

These individuals who are charged with big picture ideas are no longer grounded. They sit, and they think, but they’re not actively involving themselves in the real world surrounding them.

Therefore, the theories and solutions they put forth might sound brilliant, but they lack in practicality. These thoughts come from the clouds instead of from the shared space in which we’re all living.

This problem doesn’t only exist with our famous thinkers. Who do you trust more and who likely has more insight between a CEO who won’t bother visiting a warehouse versus one who’s willing to get their hands dirty? We’d go with the latter because that person has a physical insight into the processes that he’s overseeing.

Existing purely in thought while avoiding physicality robs us of perspective and thorough understanding. Whereas, using our hands and physically involving ourselves gives us a viable context to work with, as well as a diverse framework on which to base our thoughts.

Physicality and Thinking

The most transcendent thinkers in all of history had to demonstrate the practicality of their approaches through being physical.

For instance, Socrates was the most hardened soldier in the Athenian army. And Plato was a fearsome wrestler.

A more recent example would be Hemingway. Sure, he wasn’t a philosopher like the two giants mentioned above—but he was a creative genius and a well-known boxer.

You’d be sorely misguided if you thought these acts of physicality had nothing to do with who these individuals were as innovators, creatives, and brainstormers.

Today, this brain-hands connection is most evident in artists. Their thoughts directly impact the use of their hands, and we see that physicality manifest itself literally through their work. Unlike the philosophers of today, who detach their thinking from their actions, artists draw and think at the same time.

Another two examples of the brain directly interacting with hands are chiropractors and massage therapists. In both cases, the practitioners palpate the body with their hands to feel for abnormalities in their patient or client’s musculature.

Though, since these are two holistic disciplines, it makes perfect sense that it’d connect the mind and body in such a way.

The Homunculus Brain

The homunculus cortex is a distorted neurological map of the human body. It proportions the areas of the human body based on processing motor functions or sensory functions.

There’s a model “man” used to show this map, and it’s quite an odd image, to say the least. The bizarre proportions imply the impact on functions. So, since the sensory nerves arriving from the hands terminate over large areas of the brain, the hands of the homunculus are notably massive.

The reason for these large hands is because we experience the world through touching with our hands. Segments of the body, such as our hands that have the most significant tactile sensitivity require the most amount of cortical tissue for processing.

LEGO Serious Play Method

The science we’ve discussed in this blog is based on the philosophy that hands-on, minds-on learning produces a more insightful understanding of the world. That’s the impetus behind the LEGO SERIOUS PLAY® method.

In short, the methodology that spearheads this initiative is designed to improve business performance and enhance innovation. Furthermore, the LEGO SERIOUS PLAY® methodology deepens the reflection process and supports a productive dialogue.

This process makes participants explore relationships and connections shared by people with the world. It involves the observation of both internal and external dynamics. Also, it aims to help people become more aware of all the possibilities in front of them.

During LEGO SERIOUS PLAY®, participants build landscape models and provide meaning for their creations through story-making. Then, scenarios are played out as to sharpen insight and socially bond groups together. This promotes a free and honest exchange of ideas.

If you’re to take this course, you’ll see that the real issues are addressed. Then, you’ll find you can see clearly through the eyes of your colleagues.

Offer Yourself a Helping Hand

So, are you tired of sitting at work and hitting a behemoth-sized wall when you’re trying to brainstorm ideas?

If you want the most out of your career, and your life, finding ways to think on the deepest possible level is crucial to your success.

You can’t just turn up to work and expect that if you “put your mind” to innovation and problem solving, everything will be fine.

No, it’s time to connect your mind to the world and with the rest of your body. It’s time to start thinking with your hands.

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